rolled field Little Forest

October

October already and we are making the most of a spell of fine weather sowing wheat for next year’s harvest.

sunset apples

The Discovery apples in the garden have finished and we have just started to pick the Sunset. We’re still picking blackberries and autumn fruiting raspberries, the runner beans and tomatoes show no sign of slowing down and I’m pretending not to notice that the courgettes are no longer small, tender fingers but have ballooned into mammoth marrows.

cockerel and hen

Each evening the hens, ducks and guinea fowl are shut in a little earlier as the days shorten. The ducks come to the kitchen window any time after five in the hope that I might feed them early but the hens linger in the garden so that I sometimes have to chase them out from underneath the rose bush. The guinea fowl just shriek at me from behind the fence in the fruit field, forgetting that they can fly until I wave my arms behind them.

rabbit traps

The oilseed rape is growing well, which means that the usual battle against pigeons and rabbits has started. Just for some variety, moorhens have also decided that the tender green leaves of oilseed rape are tasty and are helping the rabbits and pigeons to clear the crop. Our mode of attack so far is to place gas bird scarers in the fields to deter the pigeons and line up rabbit traps along the headlands. A trail of carrots (sliced lengthways because that’s the way rabbits best like them) lead the unwary rabbit into the cage, where they stand on the plate that springs the door shut behind them. The traps are checked every morning and any captured rabbits are humanely dispatched. Sometimes a rabbit gets lucky and manages to eat all the carrots without springing the door. Sometimes there’s two rabbits in a cage. Sometimes people spot the cages across the field and walk over and shut them. Or turn them over. Or throw them in the ditch. Or steal them.

ducklings on pond

Rather unseasonably for October, one of the ducks has hatched four ducklings. Aren’t they cute? For the moment.

Normally at the beginning of the month I link up to Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for In My Kitchen but I think I may just post In My Kitchen photos on Instagram instead. This may be a one photo wonder, especially as my enthusiasm for Instagram waxes and wanes. If you want to see what everybody else is up to in their kitchens, check out Celia’s website for a list of proper In My Kitchen stories.


Hatched

Two of my ducks recently spent over a month sitting together on a heap of eggs. Last week, when the ducks had nipped down to the pond for a splash and refresh, I peeked into the shelter and discovered that the heap had diminished to only six eggs. We’ve been losing most of our duck eggs to crows and it seems that a pesky crow had also been raiding the nest as well.

The next evening I spied a duckling peering out from under a wing and it looked as though another egg was starting to hatch. The following morning, instead of staying on the nest as they usually did, both ducks disappeared to the pond with the others, which seemed a little odd as there were no ducklings with them.They left four eggs in the nest and a half hatched egg with a dead duckling inside and no sight of a live duckling. As the ducks showed no signs of returning (my ducks are terrible mothers) I took the four eggs inside. I deduced that two contained ducklings so I left them under a desk lamp and went out to get the half hatched egg so I could dispose of it. But, the [insert any expletive here because I probably used it] crow had beaten me to it.

day old duckling

day old duckling

A couple of days later one of the eggs under the lamp hatched to reveal a little black duckling. My daughter Ruth immediately decided she should have this duckling and that when it was older it could walk with her to work, spend the day on the pond and then walk home with her. To those of you familiar with the novels in the Gamache series, it will come as no surprise that I promptly named the duck Rosa.

Rosa and Ruth

We kept Rosa in the box on the kitchen dresser for a few days and Ruth took great delight in letting her swim in the sink or taking her outside where Rosa would follow her around. But Ruth seemed reluctant to take Rosa home and I was getting more than fed up with a duck in my kitchen, not least because she was a great distraction and time waster.

open farm sunday

Fortuitously, one of the ladies who keeps a horse on the farm said that her school would be happy to raise the duckling, provided that we would take it back when it matured. Before she could change her mind (though giving Ruth time to say her good-byes and Rosa time to do a little Open Farm Sunday promotion) I handed over the duckling so it can take its place in school. I’m sure the children will love her (or him) and it won’t be long before she returns.

baby

Meanwhile, a much more exciting hatching – a gorgeous grandson. It’s a bit of a shock to suddenly become one of the “older generation” and I’m not at all sure that I’m prepared for it.


on the farm this week

This week we’ve had sunshine, sunshine and more sunshine! A quick walk along the farm track shows how quickly the crops are ripening.

wheat Gardeners Field July 2013The wheat in Gardeners Field is just beginning to turn from green to golden. The countdown to harvest is beginning with trailers checked over, barns swept and paperwork prepared.

oilseed rape cropThe pods on the oilseed rape crop have filled out. Earlier this year, when the leaves had been eaten away by pigeons, (here’s the photos) we had to decide whether to leave the crop in the ground and hope there was enough crop left to grow or whether to plough it in and drill another crop. We decided to leave it in the ground and though it doesn’t look a fantastic crop, we will at least have something to harvest.

borage growing Essex July 2013Our neigbour was also growing oilseed rape in the field next to The Ley and over the winter we watched as flocks of pigeons flew from our field to their field and back again. Next door they decided to plough up their oilseed rape and drilled borage in its place and now the field is a sea of blue flowers. The tiny black seeds will be harvested for their oil.

ducklingsOne of my ducks has hatched off six pretty little ducklings. Having sat on her nest for a month with the sun glaring down, the mother duck was keen to get onto the pond with her brood as soon as she was satisfied that all the eggs that contained ducklings had hatched. She pushed the unhatched eggs out of her nest, rounded up her little family and headed for the pond. She walked up the ramp but of course the ducklings took the difficult route, having to jump up two steps each higher than themselves. They launched themselves upwards, flapping their immature wings and after a couple of attempts scrambled up, while their mother called them to follow.

ducklings swimming on pondHaving negotiated the steps and the walk across a small yard past parked vans, the ducklings tumbled down the bank of the pond  and plopped into the water. They took to it like … ducks to water and spent the rest of the day swimming around with the other ducks. Now they stand patiently by the gate with the others waiting to be let out every morning and each day the jump up the step seems a little easier.